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Church of Rome at the Bar of History Paperback – November 1, 1997
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Along with this book, I recommend Reasoning From the Scriptures With Catholics for a biblical critique, and The Roman Catholic Controversy for a more general critique.
To those very close to a Catholic: this book is immensely helpful in deciding what to believe. You are bomabarded constantly with Catholic claims to "catholicity"; that is, that Christ instituted only one church (naturally, the RCC) and that all Christians everywhere and for all time have believed exactly what the RCC says. Along the same lines, Reformation beliefs are johnny-come-lately's and that Protestants should return to the "real" church. This is the most difficult argument of Catholics to wrestle with, because Bible verses can be interpreted differently as can fruits of the Spirit but history is a fact.
Well, Webster blows the "catholic" argument out of the water. He has an easy job, because he doesn't have to show that Church Fathers would have been Protestant, merely that some beliefs of each father go against modern Catholicism. By quoting historical documents (which are extensively referenced), he shows that the early Church contained a mix of "Catholic" and "Protestant" beliefs (at best) or were entirely opposed to an idea like a papacy at the beginning. He admits that the doctrine of the Eucharist is the best supported historically, but even so, some authoritative writers explicitly supported views more like Calvin's on the topic.
I would say, then, that Webster succeeds in using his book to show that Reformation beliefs had support in the early Church and that the RCC is unjustified in dismissing Protestant beliefs as going against history, and that even some of its own beliefs contradict the statements of those it uses for support. Even if it does not convince, for whatever reason, a single Catholic, I am convinced that I should not be swayed by any claims of the RCC to sole ownership of history.
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